How Your Lungs and Mind Team Up
This World Mental Health Day, I would like to explore something unexpected but crucial: the connection between our lungs and our mental well-being. For those that don’t know me, I’m Saira, Product Director for the Digital Health Passport here at Tiny Medical Apps. I have lived with asthma since I was 4 years old and what I have noticed is that asthma is usually seen as a physical breathing issue; a condition just affecting your lungs. However I have learnt that it actually plays a role in how we feel mentally.
Dealing with asthma isn’t just about the physical struggle; it can also bring with it stress and anxiety. The uncertainty of when symptoms might flare up adds an extra layer of challenge, for example when on holiday or when you are out with your friends and family. Here’s the twist—stress and anxiety can, in turn, make asthma worse. It’s a two-way street.
So, as we talk about taking care of our mental health, we need to include tools that tackle both sides of the coin. That’s where the Digital Health Passport steps in. It’s not your typical health app; it’s a friend for kids, young people, and their caregivers dealing with asthma. Even as an adult, I rely on the Digital Health Passport to stay vigilant about managing my asthma. By effectively managing this aspect of my health, I can prioritise and dedicate more attention to maintaining my mental wellbeing.
The app goes beyond tracking symptoms and medications. It’s designed to help with the mental side of things too, offering a range of education resources. The Digital Health Passport has your back! It connects you with a community that understands what you’re going through and what is even more exciting for me is that we are constantly improving and building on the app with our users.
On this World Mental Health Day, let’s break the idea that mental and physical health are separate. Download the Digital Health Passport—it’s your ticket to a healthier, happier you and those you care about. Taking care of your breath involves both your lungs and your state of mind. Let’s give both the attention they deserve.
Here are my top 10 strategies for harmonising mental health and asthma based on what I have learnt over the years managing my own asthma and mental wellbeing:
1. Prioritise Stress Management:
In my personal experience, prioritising stress management has been crucial for maintaining a healthy balance between managing my asthma and nurturing my mental wellbeing. I’ve incorporated deep breathing exercises into my daily routine. Whenever I feel the weight of stress or anxiety, taking a few minutes to focus on my breath and calm my mind not only alleviates my mental tension but also has a positive impact on my asthma. By consciously reducing stress levels through these practices, I’ve noticed a decrease in asthma related incidents and an improvement in my overall mental state. This proactive approach has empowered me to better manage my asthma, allowing me to redirect my energy towards nurturing my mental health and enjoying a more fulfilling life.
2. Regular Exercise:
Personally, I have found that incorporating regular exercise into my routine has significantly contributed to managing both my asthma and my mental wellbeing. Initially, I started with light exercises like walking and gentle stretching, gradually increasing the intensity with weights as my fitness improved. Regular exercise doesn’t just help you maintain a healthy weight but it seems to have also enhanced my lung capacity (which I notice with my peak flow results).
When engaging in physical activities such as weight lifting or playing sports, I’ve noticed a positive impact on my mental state as well. Exercise releases endorphins, often referred to as ‘feel-good’ hormones, which elevate my mood and help in managing stress and anxiety. This dual benefit of improved asthma symptoms and enhanced mental wellbeing has encouraged me to maintain a consistent exercise routine. It has become an integral part of my holistic approach to managing my health effectively.
3. Build a Strong Support System:
For me, building a robust support system has been a cornerstone of effectively managing both my mental well-being and chronic conditions like asthma. Having understanding friends and a supportive family has made a significant difference in my health journey. During challenging times, their encouragement and empathy have helped me navigate the emotional aspects of dealing with a chronic condition like asthma.
It’s also very important to never be embarrassed to tell trusted friends about your asthma. Sharing my concerns and experiences with my support network has not only provided me with emotional solace but has also allowed me to gain valuable insights and coping strategies. This emotional support has proven crucial in managing stress and anxiety, which can often exacerbate asthma symptoms. Knowing I have a reliable support system to lean on has empowered me to focus on my mental well-being, leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life despite the challenges of asthma.
4. Follow Asthma Action Plans:
Adhering to my personalised asthma action plan has been instrumental in effectively managing my asthma and alleviating any anxiety related to breathing difficulties. Following the prescribed steps and strategies outlined in the plan has allowed me to stay proactive in controlling my symptoms and minimising the impact of asthma on my daily life.
Knowing that I have a structured plan in place provides a sense of reassurance and reduces anxiety associated with unexpected asthma triggers. Additionally, utilising the Digital Health Passport to store my asthma action plan ensures that I have easy access to it wherever I am. This convenient accessibility has proven invaluable during times of need, providing me with immediate guidance and empowering me to take prompt actions to manage my asthma effectively. It’s a proactive approach that ultimately contributes to a better quality of life and improved mental well-being.
5. Adequate Sleep:
Emphasising the importance of quality sleep has been pivotal in my approach to managing asthma and nurturing my mental well-being. Making sleep a priority has positively impacted both my respiratory function and my overall mental state. Establishing a consistent sleep routine, including a regular bedtime and wake-up time, has helped me achieve better rest.
Adequate and uninterrupted sleep has notably enhanced my ability to cope with stress, ultimately aiding in managing asthma symptoms more effectively. When well rested, I find it easier to maintain a sense of calm and approach challenges with a clearer mind. This, in turn, contributes to a better outlook on managing my asthma and achieving a healthier mental state. Integrating sufficient sleep into my lifestyle has undoubtedly become a fundamental aspect of my holistic approach to wellbeing.
6. Stay Informed:
Educating myself about asthma triggers and symptoms has been instrumental in improving my self-management approach, which in turn has alleviated anxiety tied to unexpected asthma flare-ups. By acquiring a comprehensive understanding of what triggers my asthma and recognising early symptoms, I can take proactive measures to mitigate potential exacerbations.
Utilising the educational resources and videos available through the Digital Health Passport has been a valuable tool in expanding my knowledge base. Being well informed has given me a sense of confidence and control over my asthma management. It has significantly reduced the uncertainty and anxiety associated with unexpected symptoms or triggers. This proactive approach, facilitated by staying informed, has contributed to better asthma control and a more tranquil state of mind, ultimately promoting my overall wellbeing.
7. Mindful Eating:
Incorporating mindful eating into my lifestyle has been pivotal for both my asthma management and general wellbeing. Cultivating an awareness of the foods I consume and their potential impact on my asthma symptoms has allowed me to make informed dietary choices that benefit my respiratory health.
Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, has not only supported my overall health but has also played a significant role in managing my asthma effectively. Being mindful of certain foods that may contribute to inflammation and potentially worsen asthma symptoms has helped me tailor my diet to minimise these effects.
By making these conscious dietary decisions and understanding the link between nutrition and asthma, I have been able to reduce inflammation and subsequently alleviate asthma-related discomfort. This approach to mindful eating has not only improved my asthma control but has also contributed to my overall sense of vitality and wellbeing.
8. Open Communication:
Prioritising open communication with my healthcare professionals has been a fundamental aspect of managing both my mental health and asthma effectively. Sharing my concerns, challenges, and experiences related to these related aspects of my health has enabled me to receive comprehensive and tailored care.
By openly discussing my mental health concerns and how they can impact my asthma management, I have gained valuable insights and guidance from my healthcare team. This transparent dialogue has allowed for a more holistic approach to my healthcare, addressing not only the physical aspects of asthma but also the emotional and psychological aspects.
This effective communication has fostered a sense of trust and collaboration between myself and my healthcare providers, ensuring that my care plan is well-rounded and considers all relevant factors. It has also helped alleviate any anxiety or uncertainties I may have had, ultimately promoting a more proactive and confident approach to managing my health.
9. Allergy Management:
Giving attention to allergy management has been a pivotal aspect of my strategy to effectively manage asthma and prioritise my mental wellbeing. Addressing environmental triggers that exacerbate asthma symptoms has not only improved my respiratory health but has also positively influenced my overall mental state.
Proactively managing allergies and minimising exposure to triggers in my living environment have been essential steps. This includes taking measures to reduce dust, pollen, and other potential allergens. By creating a supportive living environment that is conducive to respiratory health, I have noticed a significant decrease in asthma-related episodes.
The connection between allergy management and mental wellbeing is profound – think about when you are in a clean and allergen-reduced environment. It definitely fosters a sense of calm and tranquillity. This, in turn, contributes to a more positive mindset, allowing me to focus on my mental wellbeing while effectively managing my asthma symptoms.
10. Consistent Medication Routine:
It is always important to me to maintain a consistent medication routine and has been key in managing my asthma effectively and fostering stability in my mental wellbeing. Adhering to my prescription medication schedule has not only prevented exacerbations but has also created a structured routine that positively influences my mental state.
Being diligent in taking my prescribed medications at the designated times has given me a sense of control over my asthma symptoms. What helps is the Digital Health Passport prompting me to take my medication on time. It provides reassurance, knowing that I am actively taking steps to manage my condition. This sense of control and stability extends to my mental wellbeing, alleviating anxiety and worry about potential asthma flare-ups. It has empowered me to focus on my mental health and other aspects of my life, knowing that I have a stable foundation for managing my asthma effectively.
Please do connect with me if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from others who suffer from asthma, and what your strategies are.
For more information and to download the Digital Health Passport visit: Digitalhealthpassport.co
For more information on World Mental Health Day, visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/world-mental-health-day